Any treatment plan has risks and benefits, and for pregnant women, the risks are of particular concern, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a national nonprofit headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“Just as particular nutrients are passed to the fetus when food is eaten, so does some medication transfer from mother to unborn child.”
It is thought that serotonin levels affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.
Although an association has been made between depression and serotonin, researchers remain unsure as to whether decreased levels of serotonin contribute to depression, or whether depression causes a decrease in serotonin levels.
“It’s important to recognize that major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions that often require therapeutic intervention. Prescribing the safest medication for mother and child is paramount,” Andrews said in a written statement.
Anxiety disorders are believed to be the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting about 40 million American adults (about 18%) age 18 years and older in a given year. These disorders cause sufferers to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty, according to a 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Anxiety and depression are more likely to affect women than men, and pregnant women are not exempt. In fact, symptoms can develop or worsen during or after pregnancy, though in some cases women notice fewer symptoms while pregnant, according to ADAA.
“Current antidepressant therapies are ineffective in treating anxiety and depression in large numbers of patients, and advances in predicting individual responses are hindered by difficulties associated with characterizing complex influences of genetic and environmental factors on serotonergic transmission in humans,” the UCLA study stated.
Another 2007 study found non-drug ways to increase body serotonin levels, including mood induction, bright light, exercise and diet.